Citizen Journalism

Archive for the ‘MSM’ Category

The art of journalism: satisfying beginners and expert readers

In Journalism, Media, MSM, Sally Baxter on May 20, 2013 at 1:25 PM

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By Sally Baxter
May 19, 2013

What makes a journalist? A lot of people – inside and outside the profession – are asking that question. If you think it takes a genius, think again. Good journalists have a representative of their audience in mind who informs every step of their work. My background’s print, so it’s natural for me to refer to a reader. Who’s your reader, a genius or an idiot?

My first Editor was also my dad which means I spent a good deal of my career wondering if I was a journalist at all. I certainly didn’t feel I really was until I was a newspaper reporter, but that was later.

In 1980 I finished high school in Brisbane and went back to Hong Kong to plot my next move.

When I’d left, Bax had a talkback show on Commercial Radio (that’s how small the market was – that was the name of the station) and was filling in the rest of his time with a little computer magazine he’d started.

By the time I returned Computer-Asia had grown enough to warrant all his attention. It was still a tiny operation, running out of a backroom behind the Hong Kong Press Club in Wanchai. There was Bax, John the ad sales guy and Teresa the paste-up artist.

I had pitched up in the middle of the mad rush which happened once a month to get the magazine to bed and Bax dragged me, still jetlagged, the very next day to help out.

I didn’t contribute much I’m sure but it was a great introduction to the swirling excitement of deadlines and the dead calm at the centre, where evey line must be carefully checked first for spelling and punctuation and then again for meaning.

The operation was so small and so tight for cash our final job was to stick the subscriber copies into envelopes as soon as they arrived back from the printer and make sure it was at the front of every newsstand we passed on the way home.

Bax, recognising the value of cheap labour, asked me to stay. But, I told him, I don’t know anything about computers.

“Neither do I,” he said.

“And nor do most of our readers. Our job is to explain it to them.”

Bax told me we were writing for the business people who knew this stuff was important but didn’t have the first idea what it meant.

“Our reader’s probably a middle-aged guy in the middle of a middle-sized company whose boss is either about to invest in computing or has just done so.

“He’s got these weird new people with weird new titles talking a language he can’t understand telling him he’s got to do things differently.

“He doesn’t want to look like an idiot to his boss but he’s not convinced any of this stuff is going to help him do his job better.

“That’s your reader. You get to talk to the experts. Go and ask them the things that guy needs to know.” Read the rest of this entry »

Brandis free speech fudge: @MediaActive reviews the @albericie interview

In ABC, Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media Reform, MSM, Peter Clarke on May 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM


ABC Lateline Interview May 7, 2013

By Peter Clarke

May 11, 2013

Media regulation reform was never going to be easy in Australia. As it turned out, the legislation proposed by the Labor government foundered midst roiling misinformation and hyperbolic claims of draconian state intrusion into media freedoms.

It was also not helped by the ham-fisted presentation, timing and advocacy by the minister responsible for its passage through the parliament, Senator Stephen Conroy.

The irony of a news media reporting with dubious accuracy and fairness on the details of both the Finklestein Independent Media Inquiry and The Convergence Review processes and outcomes was lost on most but not all citizens and informed observers.

Professor Matthew Ricketson of Canberra University, who assisted Finklestein during the Inquiry, vented some of his frustration at the overall quality, orientation and accuracy of the media coverage and analysis around the process and ideas for reform explored by the Finklestein inquiry in an address to the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.

Ricketson suggested in that speech that the best case study for the need for media reform in Australia was the news media reporting of the Inquiry itself: “What they have done in my view is to under-report a lot of what was presented to the Independent Media Inquiry late last year and to either mis-report the Inquiry’s findings or to ignore large parts of the report altogether”.

Those of us who have followed the Finklestein Inquiry, read the diverse submissions, the final report and the surrounding, often borderline hysterical, media coverage cannot help but have some sympathy for Ricketson’s view even allowing for his immersion in the inquiry process and his detailed contributions to its findings.

Perhaps the overall news media antipathy to the Inquiry itself and its recommendations were encapsulated best by the somewhat arch comments from the CEO of Fairfax, Greg Hywood, appearing in person before the Finklestein Inquiry. He asked in effect, “What’s the problem? Why are we here?”

He was not alone in that view. The coverage and advocacy journalism of the News Limited media was strident and tipping into polemical over-kill especially via its CEO Kim Williams. Sober analysis and balanced coverage were but a pipe dream.

In the UK, the equivalent struggle around the Leveson Inquiry’s findings and recommendations continue. There, the hacking scandals at the News of the World and elsewhere drove the sentiment, rhetoric and forensic character of that inquiry. Here in Australia, Finklestein was oriented more towards the transformations of the digital revolution albeit clearly within the ripple effect of the hacking scandals in the UK and Leveson.

Before Finklestein started his hearings, The Convergence Review was already doing its work and had issued an interim report. Finklestein’s eventual findings and recommendations were effectively folded into their processes as the government (at a snail’s pace) forged its legislation aimed at effecting some media regulation reform across a range of pressing issues including the growing anomaly of regulating the printed news media in one (to many deeply unsatisfactory) way compared to the regulation of analogue and digital broadcasting and online digital media.

Now, in the “phony war” phase of the lead up to a federal election in September 2013, the failure of that legislation and the apparent junking of much of the extensive research and analytical work by Finklestein and The Convergence Review are, of course, inevitably part of a campaign of intense political point scoring. Read the rest of this entry »

Freedom Wars: The George Brandis speech

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, Journalism, Liberal Party, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM on May 9, 2013 at 6:22 PM
Liberal shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis. Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Advertiser

Liberal shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis. Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Advertiser


ABC Lateline Interview May 7, 2013

Margo: Well here it is, the Brandis speech on free speech he calls the Freedom Wars. It is not online, so Barry Tucker rang the Brandis office and obtained a copy. Thank you @btckr. I have a feeling I’ll want to write a response soon – my boiling anger at his @Lateline interview on the speech has just about subsided enough to safely have a go. (UPDATE: My reply to Brandis.)

Thursday 21 March – the last sitting day before Parliament rose for the Easter recess – will long be remembered as one of those days of frenzy and madness which infrequently, but memorably, punctuate the pages of our political history. It was, of course, the day of the famous leadership challenge that wasn’t. We will long remember Simon Crean’s stupendous press conference, as much as we remember the confused hours and bizarre outcome which it called forth. The political shenanigans of that day masked an event which was, in its way, even more consequential: the announcement earlier that morning by the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, that the Government would not proceed with its attempt to create a statutory office of Public Interest Media Advocate – the most overt interference by an Australian government with the freedom of the press since Governor Darling’s (also unsuccessful) attempt to licence newspapers in the colony of New South Wales in 1825.

Just 24 hours earlier, the Attorney-General, Mr Mark Dreyfus, had announced that the Government was also abandoning another of its ill-conceived assaults on political freedom, the bizarrely titled Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which famously – or perhaps I should say infamously – proposed to make actionable the expression of political opinions on the ground that they might be insulting or offensive to other citizens – and, for good measure, proposed to test that requirement by the subjective standard and with a reverse onus of proof.

That same morning, as Mr Dreyfus was announcing the government’s backdown on the Anti-Discrimination Bill, Mr Crean gave a little-noticed speech in the House of Representatives – although he did not know it at the time, his last Parliamentary speech as Arts Minister – introducing the Australia Council Bill. This Bill, currently before the Parliament, is the product of an extensive review of Australia’s principal arts funding body, whose operations have hitherto been governed by a Whitlam-era statue, the Australia Council Act of 1975. Although Mr Crean told the House that “the core principles of the Council … enshrined in the [1975] Act … are … retained by this bill”, there is one core principle which has disappeared entirely.[1] S. 5 of the existing Act defines the functions of the Australia Council as being to formulate and carry out policies designed, inter alia, “to uphold and promote the right of persons to freedom in the practice of the arts”. However, when one inspects the comparable clause of the new Bill, one discovers that the protection of artistic freedom has mysteriously disappeared from among the Australia Council’s core functions: a development not missed by the arts community themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

The Press Gallery contemplates reform: Join the conversation

In Fifth Estate, Journalism, Margo Kingston, MSM on May 2, 2013 at 2:48 PM
Source: http://pressgalleryreunion.com.au/

The PG at old parliament house before the big move. Source: http://pressgalleryreunion.com.au/

By Margo Kingston

May 2nd, 2013

The Canberra Press Gallery is in a reforming state of mind, and to my surprise I’m making a contribution, thanks to Twitter. And thanks to the Press Gallery Committee President @David_Speers, Tweeps can have an input too.

The PGC decides who joins the club. In the old days we knew who belonged, journos chosen by their media employers. So there are no criteria for entry, no standard form, no process apart from emailing the president and obtaining a signature for Parliament officials to issue a press gallery pass. We all knew who belonged and who didn’t.

Times are changing. New media is moving in, old media is contracting, and the very definition of ‘journalism’ is contested. The increasing direct involvement of citizens in public political discourse is intensifying demands for transparency in the media, which has somehow kept its internal workings secret at the same time as it successfully demanded ever increasing transparency in the political institutions it interrogated.

The casual, oral tradition of volunteer working members of the Press Gallery exercising what amounts to secretly exercised, discretionary power is under serious pressure, exemplified its recent refusal of membership to @callumdav. His account in @independentausstory triggered Tweep questions on how the PGC worked and where they could access a list of PG members. Although I was a member for many years I didn’t have all the answers, and @walter_bagehot kindly briefed us.

I was surprised that the press gallery membership list, readily in Parliament House, was not a public document, and tweeted David for a a copy for  publication. Having received no reply, I lodged an FOI with the Department of Parliamentary Liaison, which has the list because of its duty to maintain the security pass database.

As a result, PGC secretary @Jamesmassola had a go at me by tweet: ‘FOI seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’ David then asked for my email address. Here is our correspondence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Your guide to the Press Gallery and its gatekeeper

In Fifth Estate, Journalism, Margo Kingston, MSM on April 30, 2013 at 9:33 PM

Margo Kingston note: I was a member of the press gallery for many years. When I left Fairfax to take Webdiary independent my Parliament House ID lapsed. I applied to the then Press Gallery Committee president Karen Middleton for a new PG ID and she signed off without a hassle.

Yet I couldn’t answer some questions from tweeps this week about the status and powers of the PGC, and was surprised by the reasons given by the current president David Speers for refusing an application by Callum Davidson to join the PG as a journo for Independent Australia. The reasons for rejection were that IA was an opinion-based publication, not news-based, and that applicants had to be established working journalists.  I find the first reason odd, given IA’s intrepid investigations of the Ashby and Thomson stories, both of which have produced many news stories and news scoops, including one by me.

In addition, I confirmed with my former SMH colleague Mike Seccombe that he had been granted admission to the Press Gallery for the Global Mail, which is a feature-based publication not focussed on news. Gabrielle Chan, a member of the PG when she worked for the Oz many years ago, was also granted membership when she joined The Hoopla as an opinion and colour writer.

@walter_bagehot has kindly agreed to give us the facts on the privileges of the Press Gallery and the power and composition of the Press Gallery Committee. It seems that Callum can appeal to the PGC as a whole. Unfortunately, there appear to be no written protocols or guidelines for PGC decision making. As new media expands and the mainstream media contracts, I feel that the PGC needs to publish written guidelines and a process for appeal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Walking Away

In AFHP, Federal Election, Journalism, MSM, Tony The Geek on April 28, 2013 at 8:30 PM

How Sales dropped the ball on Abbott

In ABC, Federal Election, Journalism, Peter Clarke on April 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

By Peter Clarke,

April 25, 2013

Late last year, Leigh Sales interviewed Tony Abbott live on the 730 Report. Sales was sharp and persistent, Abbott poorly prepared and struggling. Sales beat claims of bias and won a coveted Walkley Award for TV interviewing.

Naturally viewers were relishing the prospect of a return bout, and Sales and the program promoted the interview on social media. It now seems that if Abbott agrees to be interviewed on an ABC current affairs program it is a ‘get’. Because of the history and the ongoing tensions between the office of the opposition leader and the ABC, there is an additional expectation from the audience.

Unlike Sales’ interviews with Prime Minister Gillard, there is no history between Sales and Abbott around key policy areas or even how they engage in these set-piece, contested, political interviews. Rather, each interview appears to be built from the ground up, as if it was the first one. Their rarity causes a fundamental problem in the continuity of enquiry.

I first reviewed Sales’ performance in a piece about her interview with Gillard after she stared down Rudd to retain her leadership, in which I was quite critical of both participants. I have long been an admirer of Sales, and cite her as one of the best we have.

Or I used to.

Something happened in that Gillard interview which diminished the natural and hard-won interviewing skills Sales had clearly demonstrated. She gleaned very little useful insight or information for citizens. Last night’s interview with Abbott was calmer and smoother than the Gillard one or Sales’ last interview with Abbott, but, again, very little content of real value emerged. 

In fact, the most troubling aspect of the interview last night was that Sales did not appear to be listening acutely enough to Abbott’s answers. Alongside all the integrated skills and techniques in a top interviewer’s toolkit, LISTENING remains the key attribute. Without it, the ‘hollow dance’ becomes even more superficial.

This Abbott interview was roughly the same duration as the Gillard one – just over thirteen minutes. It was (as was the Gillard interview) pre-recorded. And Abbott was not in the studio with Sales. Here is a brief analysis of the interview transcript. 

In her set-up, Sales frames the interview as an enquiry into the Coalition’s economic plan, stating that “your vote will boil down” to your judgement on how well the Labor government handled the Global Financial Crisis and associated spending. Her opening remarks to Abbott followed that line until she ask the gift (for Abbott) question: Are you asking the public to elect you on blind faith?

In my article on Sales’ Gillard interview, I suggested that the interview never recovered from asking a broad diffuse and opinionated first question. Sales’ opening gambit with Gillard:

After recent events, aren’t Australians well within their rights to conclude that the Gillard Government is a dysfunctional mess that deserves to be consigned to opposition as soon as possible?

Notice the similarity in form and approach? Gillard walked through the giant gap. So did Abbott.

Sales could have chosen, as her set-up promised, a specific, targeted first question around economic policy to stop Abbott being able to rely on the generalised, abstract discourse politicians favour to avoid the question and stay on message. But Sales went for the flourish again, and it let her down, again. Read the rest of this entry »

Using Thatcher’s death to rewrite history, past and present

In Ideology, Misogyny, News Limited, Sarah Capper on April 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Thatcher-loc

By Sarah Capper, Sheilas Editor

Source: Sheilas
18 April 2013

When Germaine Greer penned a piece on the late “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin for the Guardian shortly after his death from a stingray puncture, it was followed by howls of protest from all parts of the globe. Greer ended her ‘barbed’ take on the much-loved ‘Aussie legend’ with:

“The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin, but probably not before a whole generation of kids in shorts seven sizes too small has learned to shout in the ears of animals with hearing 10 times more acute than theirs, determined to become millionaire animal-loving zoo-owners in their turn.”

As a result, Greer was lambasted as insensitive, cruel and GASP, “unaustralian” for daring to write such a critique. Some called for her to be banned from entering the country again. The National Portrait Gallery replaced a picture of Greer with – you guessed it – Steve Irwin.

In such situations, the assumption is that we should never speak ill of the dead, even if those who have died have been major public figures and divisive ones at that.

Former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher was indeed one such public figure, who at the helm of the United Kingdom during the 1980s presided over policies which had huge impacts on the people she governed. Her passing last week led to a barrage of global tributes from political leaders of various persuasions.

In response, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that “as a woman, I am admiring of her achievements on becoming the first woman to lead the United Kingdom”.

Locally, conservative columnists took the opportunity to elevate the memory of Britain’s first and only female PM as a chance to sink the boot into Australia’s first and current female Prime Minister.

Under the headline ‘JULIA’S NO MAGGIE’, News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt lambasted Gillard’s response to the news as “pathetic and graceless”, as “Thatcher never sold herself as a victim or just a representative of her gender”.

Bolt used his column to have another spray at Emily’s List, a terrible organisation in the eyes of the Bolt’s of this world, which, god forbid, aims to support progressive women in political positions within the Australian Labor Party.

Referring to an Emily’s List function two years ago, Bolt quoted Gillard at the event as saying she “didn’t get here [to be Australia’s first female Prime Minister] alone … I think of all the women who made my journey possible … a century of activism by women of matchless courage and resolve.” Read the rest of this entry »

Media reform on life-support

In ABC, Fifth Estate, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media Reform on April 13, 2013 at 2:05 PM

By Kevin Rennie

April 13, 2013

The near capacity crowd at the Centre for Advanced Journalism’s session The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now? belied the conventional wisdom that media reform in Australia is dead (Details and the live blog are here). The venue was the aptly named Elisabeth Murdoch theatre at Melbourne University. But let’s not dwell on her infamous son despite the presence of his large press prints all over the issues discussed.

Media reform panel
The following is a personal reflection on some of the matters raised.

Convergence and concentration: Whither/wither media reform?

Panel members left little doubt that there is no chance for major reforms to legislation or self-regulation in the near future.

Julian Disney, Chair of the Australian Press Council, was the most optimistic. He would like to get his ambitious agenda revitalized: broadening Council membership to all the so-called converging media: print, broadcast and online; establishing community input; enhancing complaints procedures; defining journalistic ethics, standards and codes of practice; gaining the ability to initiate complaints.

On the issue of media concentration there was no consensus. Media Watch presenter, Jonathan Holmes, spelled out the financial reality – no one is going to buy a stand-alone daily newspaper. He hopes that here may be greater diversity in the medium term through the emergence of independent online news sites with real penetration.

There is little or no precedent for this in Australia at this stage. Players such as Crikey, Global Mail and New Matilda resemble feature magazines with no meaningful news gathering capacity. Perhaps he has the soon-to-be-launched Guardian Australia in mind. It will be a different voice but is hardly a truly new player.

Healthy bias?

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the discussion concerned political bias in the mainstream media. The panel consensus, led by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, was that bias is okay so long as we get a broader range of opinions by having more media outlets and owners.

This publisher pluralism depends on the problematic proliferation of real online alternatives mentioned above. However, the old joke still fits: Freedom of the press is owning one. If new online organisations are controlled by the big end of town, the traditional media hegemony will continue, based on the shared worldview of the usual suspects. It may just mean more opportunities for the IPA turks and other think tankers to strut their neo-liberal stuff.

Projecting public interest

Controlling the excesses of partiality, the audience was told, would only come through monitoring instances where bias leads to distortion of facts (lies for instance) or unbalanced coverage (more of jolly old Lord Whatshisname the climate scientist). The Press Council and media monitors like Media Watch are virtually powerless to rein in political bias per se.

Standards that might be applied in this regard include: distinguishing between news and views; checking sources; contacting the key people before publication; fact checking. The kind of vilification that some News Limited papers poured on Senator Stephen Conroy recently seems beyond the reach of any code or regulations. Even the court of public opinion is unlikely to find in favour of politicians or political parties who seem to be regarded as unfair game.

Just as worrying was the lack of redress for individuals who have been treated unfairly by the media. Julian Disney saw it as a real problem but Jonathan Holmes was not as concerned as he believes it rarely happens. Great to hear that people’s privacy is being respected at last. The shameless commercial current affairs shows must have abandoned the foot in the door and the camera at the bathroom window.

Social media campaigns were suggested as one of the few ways to call out the worst cases. It is the hands of the public. Julian offered the prospect of community roundtables and a Press Council community advisory group. Fine in themselves but hardly a knockout blow to gutter journalism.

He believes that netizens will have to provide the teeth and the quality research if the self-regulator is to do its job. Perhaps we should follow his suggestion that concerned citizens coordinate complaints to the Council. Perhaps the Public Interest Advocate will be a citizen appointment. Hands up anyone? Some philanthropist is bound to foot the bill to defend all the libel suits and legal maneuvers to reveal confidential sources. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Latham’s Webdiary interview

In Journalism, Media, Media Reform, MSM on March 29, 2013 at 8:42 PM
Mark Latham

Mark Latham

September 29, 2005

Source: Webdiary

Margo: Mark, I thought I’d start with a few questions from Webdiarists.

Mark: Yep.

Margo:The first is from Craig Warton and he’s asked, if you could turn back time would you have pursued the path of politics to try and achieve your goals for Australia, or would you, perhaps, chosen another path?

 Mark: Well difficult question in that I never find contemplating the turning back of time to be all that healthy a process; it’s just so futile.

I know it’s futile. I guess the point is –

Well I suppose the best way for me to answer to it is that tonight in Melbourne I’m giving a lecture on the ten reasons why a young idealistic person these days should avoid organised politics. If they want to make a contribution to society, do it at a community level, helping out with charities and local community and welfare organisations to try and help people and generate a more cohesive caring society. So, yeah, if I was born tomorrow or was a young person leaving University tomorrow, I’d think that was a better path.

So you’re really going, okay, the only way to achieve social democracy in Australia is bottom-up. You cannot actually do it by entering a mainstream political party and doing it from the top-down. That’s, is that –

Well I think our major problems in Australia are social, not economic, I mean we’re a prosperous nation with a long, long period of economic growth and you compare that to the horrific increase in family and community breakdown, the rise of mental illnesses, social isolation, whole range of problem our young people face these days. The paradox has been as the economy has grown rapidly, the quality of society has deteriorated just as rapidly and I think it’s more important for people to think about ways in which you can address those social problems than play the political game which inevitably at election time is about economics.

Well, this is a question from me, you say in your Introduction that this book is my exit from all forms of politics, yet reading the Introduction, it seems to me that the only way to achieve social democracy is to engage in politics at some level. So I was just wondering if you really meant ‘organised politics’?

Well organised politics, politics as the Australian people understand it, which is belonging to a political party and running for Parliament.

So you’re trying to, through this book, say to the Australian people there is another form of politics and it’s really important that you get involved at its community level – and then what? I mean how do you bring that together?

Well people already know that, they live in communities and neighbourhoods, but the rise of materialism and I think the voyeuristic culture people are increasingly turning inwards and I argue in the Introduction for people who read the book, that as much as possible people should contribute to their local community and try to rebuild social capital and trust and cohesion.

One of the things that I found most interesting in the Introduction, and Mark that’s all I’ve read because I’ve been running around on my own thing but I’m definitely intending to read the whole thing –

Well the Introduction’s sort of a summary of the themes in the book.  The Diary entries, of course, are contemporary and lively and raw, but the Introduction is a summary of the overall.

You talk in the Intro about the two options for Labor reform, the first being independence from the unions, not possible, you’d split the party; the second being forming a mass political organisation – too difficult. Would you think there’s any chance for a mass political organisation that actually wasn’t part of the major parties, that was, I don’t know, a movement which could take in a lot of Australians who are disillusioned with mainstream politics however they vote? I suppose I’m getting to this thing that you did, that Internet Democracy experiment, and I’m just looking for what – can you imagine possibilities utilising the net as a means for Australians to rescue the system so that they have got a real alternative again, to get the debate moving? Read the rest of this entry »